Developer Quantic Dream
Things you might like:
- The load time allows you plenty of time to make a cup of tea
- The graphics are very stunning in a couple of places
- ‘Quantic’ is worth at least 68 points in Scrabble
Things you might not like:
- An extremely convoluted control system
- Graphics are mostly so-so
- Terribly bland characters and voice acting
- A relatively boring plot
- Nobody can run. Ever. Even if they’re on fire
- Things take ages to happen, then you’re sorry they do
Don’t believe the hype: whilst Heavy Rain could conceivably have worked as a film, this is a horror-thriller that’s far more boring and insufferable than it should have been.
1 out of 5 folded pieces of paper thrown into the bin in despair
Errol Stephen Philip Flynn needs more than two buttons to move.
Heavy Rain. Let’s sum it up: you play a cast of characters who are all involved in some way to the case of the Origami Killer. The Origami Killer is a killer who leaves origami at the scenes of murders. The murders are all of children who have drowned in rainwater. That’s the Heavy Rain part. If you enjoyed that dull and plodding explanation, you’ll love Heavy Rain. If, on the other hand, you’re alive and not in a coma, you’ll find this game irritating beyond belief.
Okay, let’s go further into the plot – such as it is. The game begins with a father, Ethan. Let’s be fair and loving here: he’s a muppet. He has two kids, and lets one of them wander off and get hit by a car. This may have something to do with the fact that no character can move faster than a slow plod, but we’ll get to that later. So, one of his kids is dead, so he’ll certainly take better care of the remaining one, right? No. The other one gets kidnapped by the Origami Killer, and a ‘plot’ is born.
There are only fourteen problems with the control system, and it’s no coincidence that that’s how many buttons there are on a PS3 controller. Unlike traditional role playing games (RPGs), which have a single ‘action’ button, every action is achieved by pressing buttons in a specific order, or moving the control stick in a certain way. There are prompts displayed onscreen whenever your character is near something that can be interacted with, and most of them are needlessly complicated. Also, the game gives no indication of what will be achieved as an end result, which means that fifty complicated button presses later and you’ve made coffee. Gosh.
The game is full of nonsense like this. Buy a balloon. Make the table. It’s dull, it’s unnecessary and it’s pointless. What’s more jarring is that when you do get to a more interesting action, you dread doing it, as you might be wasting more of your time making toast.
I could hang about on that point all day, but I know you won’t, so I’ll be scathing about the movement next. Most RPGs have one button for movement, perhaps another if you need to run or jump, which means that traditionally you either run everywhere because it’s quicker (or, like me, travel in hugely amusing kangaroo bounds). Heavy Rain wants to be more realistic than that, obviously, which means making it duller. You walk everywhere, because your characters are so serious. This is intensely aggravating, as they don’t even walk quickly, but as if they’re moving through setting treacle. The actions are the same; slow and ponderous. Worse: you need to use two buttons to move.
Can somebody explain this to me? Why, when all the people in the game move at the same soporific speed, is moving the joystick not good enough? It’s your natural instinct, and if you forget to hold down R2 as well, all your character does is stand there, giving a long, sad, intense stare at where you want them to be going. It’s so clunky and difficult to control, and it’s impossible not to get frustrated as you lazily drift past important action points with no sensible way of going directly to them. Oh look, you’ve made coffee again!
If all this seems unduly harsh, I invite you to play the game. I’ve played it to completion, and it was totally and utterly ruined by all the issues above. All that kept me going was a grim determination to see it to the end (assisted by Laura constantly giggling at my frustration).
There’s the heart of the problem. Heavy Rain was trying so hard to be different that the developers didn’t care how unusable it became. It’s ostensibly a Choose Your Own Adventure book with a number of different endings, choices, and consequences. However, the point of those books was that your imagination fleshed out the characters and the locations. Heavy Rain does that for you, and badly. The graphics are nowhere near as good as they should be for a high-end console. I find Metal Gear Solid 4 and Assassin’s Creed more realistic, and they were released a few years ago (and feature walking tanks and psychic vision, respectively). The characters have faces that are supposed to be highly detailed, but it took me a while to work out that Ethan and another guy weren’t the same person, because they look identical.
Not only that, but the voice acting is as off-putting as the controls; the actors all sound half-asleep, and again, very similar.There’s also a lack of intonation; the speech comes across in a very calm monotone, no matter what the crisis. As you can imagine, this does little to get the heart racing.
The plot is as generic as everything else, full of cliches and tedious sequences. This would have worked better as a series of high-action fights and drives separated by cutscenes. Instead, the game is one long cutscene. The one good point I can say about it is that it keeps you guessing, but that’s mainly through a series of clues that are either so convoluted you cannot follow them, or so minuscule and hard to set the controller on that you can’t find them. The characters have a backstory, but it’s impossible to really warm to any of them as they plod their way through a poorly rendered world. So many points also come in without explanation; such as the FBI guy’s drug habit and Ethan’s blackouts. Having loose threads at the end of a game is understandable to a degree, but to have them at the beginning is unforgivable.
I am aware that this review charges against the sycophantic praise other critics have thrown at it, but I’m showcasing my opinion here, and a quick Google search tells you that I am not alone. If you type Heavy Rain is into the search bar, the autofill offers such suggestions (among spoilers, so be warned) as terrible, boring, overrated, depressing and, most interestingly: not a game.
I think that this is a serious point to end on. There’s a plot hidden somewhere in the game, but the way you uncover it is through a repetitive series of actions. There’s no thinking, just entering the sequences that the developers programmed in. That’s not a game, that’s an interactive film (with a very basic definition of interactive). I’ll admit that the game is a never-before-seen affair, with many unique (if irritating) points, but if this is the future of gaming, I’ll go back to something with more excitement and playability, like Tetris.